Thursday, May 29, 2008

BOBBY WOMACK: Lookin' For A Love Again

Bobby Womack - Lookin' for a Love Again
Most of these songs are over before they go anywhere, but they don't need to go anywhere because they're already there, and so are you when you listen to them. The problem is, once you’re there, you want to STAY there. Rather than stretching these songs out to Fela Kuti proportions, however, Bobby Womack leaves you wanting more, biting your tongue to hold back pleas of "Rewind, selector!"

Perhaps the economical running times are a symptom of Womack's crisp, confident showmanship. With a voice that recalls his old mentor
Sam Cooke's whiskey/velvet croon, he is a master of both vocal restraint and freedom, never falling into the equally tempting traps of tasteless histrionics or catatonic, technical recitation. He's smooth, very smooth. As a descriptor of music, "smooth" is almost always pejorative; connoting a certain clinical slickness. Womack’s smoothness, however, is different. His singing is heartfelt, and he's giving it 100%, but in a manner that suggests giving 99% or less is something he doesn’t even know how to do. He's good, and he knows he’s good, but he doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. The second "You're Welcome, Stop on By" kicks in, every head within earshot starts nodding along. The hard funk of "Don't Let Me Down" can not be listened to sitting down. Even the most devout feminist will sing along with "Lookin' For A Love", despite the looking-for-a-maid lyrics. And if you needed further proof that Bobby Womack can cross any boundaries, look how deftly he fits into the slightly more country-western settings of "Copper Kettle" and "Point of No Return".

This is a modest masterpiece, beaming with exuberant musicianship (dig that Muscle Shoals horn section!) and a strong, memorable repertoire of songs. Why it has remained overlooked is a mystery. This deserves to be placed among the best works of Curtis Mayfield and Al Green.

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